Stigmatize gun ownership like smoking?

The Christian Science Monitor continues to astound with its idiocy.  One recent Monitor headline described the belligerence of Hamas as mere “military action.”  This when their signature mode of armed conflict–rocket attacks–consists in the indiscriminate targeting of Israeli civilians.  So much for the idea of terrorism.

Now, the Monitor‘s editorial board suggests gun violence can be curbed by a public perception campaign akin to that which stigmatized smoking.  What would this look like? We can imagine the Ad Council cartoon propaganda now: a bratty, freckled blonde boy, sporting a sideways baseball cap, growls, “Hey bro, owning guns is not cool.”  Will subjecting upstanding, law abiding gun owners–who are generally paragons of civic responsibility–to such a silly and divisive psychological campaign really help?

There are better stigmas to promote instead. When Hollywood celebrities earnestly “demand a plan” of politicians while remaining unapologetic for their own glorification of gun violence, we ought to stigmatize their hypocrisy (and chuckle given their unintended fulfillment of this prophetic Portlandia parody). When our society allows severe mental illness to remain untreated out of fear of institutionalization and the corresponding desire for maximal autonomy, we should stigmatize indifference towards such danger.

Michael Medved is right when he declares that gun violence is a spiritual rather than a material problem. Prisoners of progressive thought are always trying to stigmatize material things.  They say SUVs kill the earth, or guns kill people.  At least the market tinkering of “cash for clunkers” had the probable effect of increasing the nation’s overall fuel efficiency.  But gun buybacks only decrease the ratio of gun ownership between law-abiding citizens and criminals.  Why is it ever good for criminals and murderers to have relatively more guns than the population at large?

The Monitor editorial also suggests an expansion of non-gun-owner rights along the lines of “non-smoker rights.”  Please, everyone, we have to think more carefully about rights!  We can’t just keep making up new ones.  Especially ones backed by stigma.  Have the editors at the Monitor forgotten that stigma–based on the materialistic concern of skin color–once supported the Jim Crow “right” for whites to not share public accommodations with blacks?

Rather than invoke stigmas based on material things, let’s stigmatize undesirable attitudes and behaviors instead.  We can start with the unfounded hysteria over gun violence.

The shell game of postmodernity

This week I’m drawing disparate threads together from recently digested media.  Hopefully these will inspire some critical thoughts on worldview, whether it be your own or of those around you.

In anticipation of the first Hobbit movie, my wife and I re-watched The Two Towers and The Return of the King.  This insightful quote by Gandalf struck me:

The old wisdom that was borne out of the West was forsaken. Kings made tombs more splendid than the houses of the living and counted the names of their descent dearer than the names of their sons. Childless lords sat in aged halls musing on heraldry or in high, cold towers asking questions of the stars. And so the people of Gondor fell into ruin. The line of Kings failed, the White Tree withered, and the rule of Gondor was given over to lesser men.

Can you think of a place like this?  Perhaps the ivory tower of the academy.  Or better yet, Europe.  This image captures the predicament of the post-industrial world.  There is a concerted effort among elites of the “West” to unlearn its culture and traditions.  The great project of social democrats in Europe, Canada, Japan, and beyond has built an edifice that’s more a civilizational masoleum than a regime to edify humanity.  This is the modern welfare state.

Rather than be bothered with commitments of marriage, the raising of children, and the fruits of free enterprise, people are more concerned with securing their siestas and thirty-five hour work weeks, to the exclusion of the dwindling numbers of youth annually pouring onto the unaccommodating labor markets.

And even those jobless youth lap up the same tired ideas.  I recently caught a few episodes of Portlandia, the sketch comedy that pokes fun at a city where the young move “to retire.”  The program, often crude and in keeping with the laughing-at zeitgeist of The Daily Show, illuminates nonetheless.  In gentrified cores of our cosmopolitan metropolises an army of grown kids paste pictures of birds on objects to self-soothe and are more concerned for the welfare of animals than of children.

This inversion of priorities gets to some of the news of the day.  We have a citizenry that is more concerned about feeling good than getting it right.  And so the silly story that Obama’s pardoned turkey ended up being euthanized anyway.  It speaks to the lesson that liberal intentions don’t guarantee results.  Take heed the next time a politician proposes to spend some trillions to end poverty, restore jobs, or save the environment.  That which was to be prevented will probably pass, and we’ll only have more debt to show for it.

All the while, the ethic uniting the masses of the well-intentioned is tolerance, or as is often seen on California bumper stickers, the relativistic imperative to “Coexist.”  But everyone’s got a dogma in the fight.  Just look at the controversy of Republican Senator Marco Rubio’s GQ interview.  Being asked what he thought the age of the earth was, he ducked with “I’m not a scientist, man.”  In this day, scientism–a narrow view where science is the only deliverance of truth–is a cudgel secular liberals deploy against any threat to getting absolutely everything they want.

Yes, the 24-7, self-reinforcing materialist culture is ascendant.  To quote another sage of Middle Earth, “What can men do against such reckless hate?”

There are baby steps.  In the hopes of starting an apologetics study group in my church community, I’ve been scouting William Lane Craig’s On Guard: Defending Your Faith with Reason and Precision.  The second chapter launches a reductio ad absurdum, a negative apologetic that comes from asking, what would be the implication of God’s nonexistence?  Dr. Craig notes Jean-Paul Sartre’s concession that life without God has no meaning.  Yet, he took up for himself Marxism.  The choice was subjective and merely arbitrary.   Without an objective point of reference, no life lived can be both happy and consistent in its worldview.

The great work of reshaping society to foster lives both happy and consistent remains before us.  Humanism will only find its logical end in a re-commitment to the sanctity of marriage and a valuing of children.  The partnerless Julia will discover her Obama-daddy culture to be utterly unsustainable.

There is a parallel reformation in showing that fulfilling livelihoods come not from the cold top-down transactions of the welfare state, but from an embracing of free markets under the rule of law.

There are those who will try hard to thwart this course correction.  A culture of relativism enables ultimate shell game.  If we point out the shell that holds objective truth, whether it be policy or morality, the Phrygian-capped ideologue can deny it or question whether there is even a game going on.  The task for the civic-minded will be to figure how to effectively expose and counter such silly moves.

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